Clearance Delays: Why Packages Get Stuck At Customs & How To Avoid It

Find out what's causing your shipment delays and how to avoid them. Learn more about clearance delays, customs regulations, and the process of importing goods into the U.S.

Clearance Delays: Why Packages Get Stuck At Customs & How To Avoid It

Are you a business owner who frequently ships items internationally? If so, you've likely experienced the frustration of clearance delays. Packages can get stuck at customs for various reasons, and it can be challenging to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. In this blog post, we'll discuss some of the most common causes of clearance delays and offer tips on avoiding them. We hope this information will help you get your shipments through customs quickly!

What Does Clearance Delay Mean?

Moving products through customs so they may enter the importing nation is known as customs clearance. Before being delivered to its consumer, international shipments must be customs cleared. "Clearance Delay" means when goods or packages are kept at customs, the process is referred to as a "clearing packages delay." If you are exporting abroad or importing any goods, this process causes frustration over an international border. 

The clearance delays do not happen out of the blue; there could be these under-discussed reasons:

Damaged packages: Broken seals, cracked plastic, or any other packaging cover are examples of damages. Additionally, when there is a strong odor or liquid spill.

Scanning Anomalies: it is also possible that the shipment has several anomalies after being scanned, according to the scanner. For instance, the discrepancy between what was initially declared about the objects and what people saw on the screen.

Random Inspection: any product may be subject to random Inspection, primarily if it originates in a nation with which they have a conflict or policy for having some suspicious trade. If your destination address is uncertain or you have a history of questionable behavior with Customs, a random check may also be conducted.

Customs clearance includes preparing and submitting the paperwork needed to facilitate imports or exports into the nation, acting as the client's advocate throughout the examination, assessment, and payment of duty, and accepting receipt of the cargo from customs following clearance of the paperwork. 

Related: What Does Clearing Customs Mean for Online Sellers?

Clearance Delay Import 

International shipping can cause stress for business owners if done incorrectly. However, clearing customs doesn't have to be complicated or unpleasant. Fortunately, thorough preparation and close attention to detail may keep stuff moving. The most frequent reasons for import delays are listed below.

Samples of textiles are not adequately prepared.

Missing Shipment Documents: Understand the criteria for shipping overseas; they are sometimes overlooked. The following are the most typical mistakes made when completing paperwork:

Vague content descriptions are used. The report needs to be factual and thorough. For instance, the phrase "computer components" calls for both those words AND the parts' brand, model, and serial number.

Documentation for the shipment is lacking. There may be missing data, amounts, or invoice pages.

Erroneous product code

The description or invoice is not in English.

A wrong number or value. Intentionally undervaluing products helps avoid paying customs or taxes.

Incomplete Consignee Or Shipper Information: The Carrier may delay the package while deciding how to handle it if there is misspelled name or missing or incomplete address.

Minimum Description: The transporter must report the importer of the items and the product being imported to CBP. Both Customs and the buyer depend on the accuracy of this information.

Lack Of Master File Data: The primary cause of shipment delays is this. Before the shipment's arrival, shippers must give their Carrier their Power of Attorney, bond information, and importer information. All upcoming shipments are covered once the data is stored. (This kind of data must be kept on file for shipments valued at $2,500 or more.)

Related: USPS Lost My Package: What Do I Do?

Customs & Approval Process 

The customs procedure may be difficult and perplexing. Even very skilled importers occasionally have to cope with inevitable obstacles. Even though some of these factors are beyond your control, there are several proactive activities you can take to actively strive to have your shipment cleared at customs as soon as it arrives at port. The only way to avoid such dreaded customs clearance wait is by understanding the phases in the procedure.

Importer security filing must first be made available to Custom Border Protection:

This phase occurs before the goods ever leave the nation from which they are being sent. Companies that handle international freight forwarding will submit this for you. 

The following details ought to be used in this process:

Importer's side:

  • Name of the Manufacturer Seller Buyer Ship-to party
  • Where to stuff containers
  • Consolidator Record Importer
  • Sentence number
  • nation of origin
  • Carrier's Harmonized Tariff Number

Carrier's Side:

  • Vessel Stow Plan
  • notice of container status

Related: Why Did My UPS Package Get Rescheduled?

Setting up all the documents

Bill of Lading (BoL): The receipt providing a list of all the items in the shipment is known as a bill of lading (BL or BoL). It includes information on the kind, amount, and destination of the sent items. The BoL is given to the consignee by the Carrier.

Commercial Invoice (CI): The CI lists the items sold and the outstanding balance. One of the essential documents to clear customs is the contract between the client and the provider.

Packing List (PL): Using a packing list, you may show customs officials the weight, amount, number of cartons, and dimensions of your shipment.

Arrival confirmation from Carrier

The agency provides arrival notices to the consignee or by the freight carrier. The consignee is just informed of the arrival via an arrival notification. Once the merchandise is at the port, arrival notifications are issued to the importer. Per standard, there are five days for the importer to compile the necessary paperwork for the shipment's clearance.

Deliver form filling at high priority

Carriers can move the procedure forward more rapidly with a customs bond. They submit an Entry/Immediate Delivery form, and if it is accepted, importers could be able to have their cargo released as soon as they arrive.

Related: Compare USPS Priority Mail to Priority Mail Express

Signup for an entry summary

Importers must submit an entry summary, also known as an entry report, five days after the products arrive at the port and ten days after filing the Entry/Immediate Delivery form. Using this form, merchandise will be cleared at customs.

Receive your Packages

If the exporter has agreed to deliver the goods to you, they will issue what is referred to as a Delivery Order when the customs clearance procedure is entirely complete. This document, given to a freight forwarder, will effectively start the delivery of your products from the port of arrival in the United States to the address you've supplied.

Related: What Does My USPS Tracking Status Mean?

How To Avoid Clearance Delays

There are a few things that you can do in order to avoid having your shipment delayed due to customs clearance.

1. Check the status of your items before you ship them

If you are unsure about the classification of your goods, check with a customs broker or freight forwarder. They will be able to tell you if your goods will need an import permit, and if so, can help you obtain one.

2. Get all the required documentation in order

Make sure you have all the necessary documentation, such as a commercial invoice, packing list, and bill of lading. Your customs broker or freight forwarder can help you with this.

3. Make sure your goods are properly labeled

Properly labeling your goods will help customs officials to quickly and accurately identify them. This will expedite the clearance process.

Related: What is a Shipping Label, and How Does it Work?

4. Use a reputable shipping company

Choose a shipping company that has experience with clearance procedures and can help you to avoid any delays.

5. Keep detailed records

Keep detailed records of your shipments, including all documentation. This will help you to track your goods and resolve any issues that may arise.

6. Keep track of your shipment

Make sure you know the expected arrival date of your shipment and track it closely. This will help you to be prepared for any delays that may occur.

Related: How Do You Track A FedEx Package Without A Tracking Number?

7. Be patient

Clearance can sometimes take longer than expected, so it is important to be patient. If you have any questions or concerns, contact your customs broker or freight forwarder. They will be able to assist you and help to resolve any issues.

8. Comply with all requests from customs officials promptly

If customs officials request additional information or documents, provide them as soon as possible. This will help to avoid any delays in the clearance process.

9. Pay any duties and taxes owing

Make sure you pay any duties and taxes owing on your shipment. If you do not, your goods may be detained by customs.

10. Contact a professional if you need help

If you are having difficulty with the clearance process, contact a professional customs broker or freight forwarder. They will be able to assist you and ensure that your goods are cleared quickly and efficiently.

FedEx Customs Clearance Delays

Below are some of the regulations FedEx has proposed to avoid any custom clearance delays:

Attend to the papers

Completing your business invoice is crucial since it contains all the information necessary for customs clearance. By including the Harmonized System (HS) code, you can assure that every country will be able to understand the product description.

Quickly respond to inquiries seeking further details

Ideally, we will have all the information we require up front, but if we do need to request additional information, the sooner we do it, the more probable it is that we can minimize delays at customs. 

Keep in mind that everything is valuable

Customs officials still need to know the worth of your products, whether they are samples, prototypes, presents, or items not intended for sale. Delays may result if this information is omitted or the documentation doesn't mention the value.

Don't assume that laws and regulations are the same everywhere

 Check in advance to see whether your products can comply. It would help if you verified that the things you deliver are legal to import into the destination country and that importation is not forbidden there.

Related: How To Slash Your Shipping Costs With FedEx One Rate


Custom delays can be a real hassle for business owners, but with the right tips and tricks, you can get your packages through customs quickly and smoothly. Have you tried any of the methods we discussed in this blog post? If not, try them and see how they work for you. Need help with fulfillment? Let Simpl Fulfillment handle your pick, pack, and shipping needs so you can focus on what you do best – running your business!

Recommended: How Long Does International Shipping Take?

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